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what causes cross gender arousal?

I have pondered long and hard over a number of years now as to what could cause cross gender arousal and have come to some fundamental conclusions.

Firstly, transgender people experience cross gender identification long before puberty which makes post-pubescent arousal a symptom of gender dysphoria and not its cause.

Secondly, sexual feelings for the opposite sex can interfere with that identification until the person figures out what their ultimate orientation might be which, for some, is decided post transition. Calling this target location error is completely erroneous since the person understands exactly what is happening to them.

What I surmise is that during the formation of a sexual being every aspect of that person's thought processes is carried through the transition into puberty thus creating a unique imprint that cannot be easily altered. In other words, passing through that doorway with whatever you are carrying will impact your erotic imprinting. That individual is then left to figure out their true sexuality by sifting through the contradictory misalignment of orientation and gender identification which is why pre transition some transgender people are asexual until they figure all this out.

I have also come to the conclusion that cross gender arousal does indeed have a large role to play in a decision to transition but only in the sense that it can retard the impetus towards it rather than accelerate it. Instead, the ultimate factor which outweighs everything else is the strength of the cross gender identification.

It is possible that my life would have been easier if I had been born a girl but then I might have made choices in life that might have resulted in less desirable outcomes. This is why I think today that whatever I experienced thus far in life is unique to me and I embrace all of it.

There is little value in seeing things otherwise.


  1. Valuable insights into a complex subject. I strongly agree with your final (personal) point about embracing our life despite its twisty path.

    Despite lifelong certainty about my gender identity, I've always harbored serious confusion about my sexuality. A major part of that was due to being forced to (almost-exclusively) socialize with men and conceal any sexual attraction which would have been condemned as "homosexuality" (when, in reality, it wasn't). Plus, a great deal of my ostensibly-sexual attraction to women was really love of their female-ness, something I wanted for myself. Complicated, indeed.

  2. Dear Joanna,

    Psalm 139 has helped me immeasurably. It covers the same topics you are speaking of today. I believe our trans nature is hardwired into us from day one and we have very little choice in the matter except in how we deal with it.

    "You formed my inmost being;
    you knit me in my mother’s womb
    I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
    wonderful are your works!
    My very self you know.
    My bones are not hidden from you,
    When I was being made in secret,
    fashioned in the depths of the earth.
    Your eyes saw me unformed;
    in your book all are written down
    my days were shaped, before one came to be.


    1. I completely agree about the hardwiring Marcia...thanks

  3. I'd like to add my 2c to this interesting and important topic. Long before puberty I fantasized about being and dressing as a girl especially in bed just before sleep. I wished that my mother would buy a dance outfit for me or other clothing and dreamed of wearing the clothes in a variety of scenarios. It wasn't erotic per se but how these fantasies and dreams made me feel - very good - I believe they are the predecessors to post pubertal fantasies. And like you and Marcia I fully believe we are hardwired this way.

    In puberty and beyond I experienced cross gender arousal, dressing in private in various items, typically lingerie, fantasizing and yes, masturbating. I was ashamed of my desires and purged several times over the years.

    Of late and at 61 and in early transition I no longer experience much arousal when dressing, perhaps just a twinge or two. And when out and about as Emma I am thankful that I don't have to worry about displaying an unsightly bulge from beneath my skirt or leggings. But at times I have wondered about that twinge down there, so I discussed it with my gender therapist a couple of weeks ago. She advised that it's more likely a barometer of my feeling in alignment with being Emma.

    A few minutes ago I was thinking of the appointment I have tomorrow at a hair salon to have my eyebrows waxed. The owner, an Ethiopian woman about my age, knows that I'm trans and she's become something of a friend. I intend to visit her tomorrow fully dressed, which she asked me to do. And I'll tell you, thinking of seeing her in her shop generated that momentary twinge down there. In my heart I know I'm doing right by myself.

    1. As we age Emma our testosterone levels decrease but not our association with our transgender nature. Thisis why you are simply settling into yourself which must feel great for you.

  4. I echo the understanding that our gender and sexuality is hardwired. Precisely how, precisely what neurophysiological correlates there are with different genders and orientations, and how much of them is generated by an interaction with our environment, I do not claim to know.

    I do, on the other hand, have a lot of questions that I have not personally witnessed those who pontificate about, rather than merely posit, their preferred hypotheses on the matter:

    To the extent that the phenomenon tends to appear in so called late transitioners (though, I myself defy that tendency), how much of it is an inevitable manfestation of something those transitioners have tried so long to suppress? We can only pretend we are just like everyone else for so long before this part of ourselves demands attention and expression in one form or another.

    How much of it is merely associated with other kinds of arousal to fear or anxiety? Society has long forbidden transgender expression. Engaging in it has been risky and clandestine. It is not uncommon to become sexually aroused in other such non-sex related but dangerous and secretive endeavors, even if it's just a mere biological reaction without associated sexual actions later taken.

    Do non-trans people exhibit any form of erotic response to sexy images of themselves? Does it feel sexy to see one's self as sexy? Is that measurable? Related?

    To what extent might it merely be a sexual stage through which some trans women must pass as they mature? I myself always felt disembodied prior to addressing my trans nature. I found myself unable to be attracted TO another without first trying to feel my body configuration as I longed for it to be. And somehow, that became enough for an entire sexual fantasy of its own. (It still is, to an extent, for our psyches, as it was once put so poetically, are like riverbeds - once imprinted, the water will continue flow along those pathways.) Once I physically transitioned (and was able to accept the limits on how much the human anatomy can be altered), I settled more into just being myself, and allowed more sexual fantasies to flow. And began to find attractions to others.

    I could go on.

    Instead, I'd rather pontificate a bit myself. I hope I'll be forgiven.

    It's so easy to stress about cross gender arousal. But relax a bit. However strongly or weakly you feel it, it is something of which you are AWARE. It is not what you ARE. It is but one facet of your all-too-complex subjective experience. Let it happen, and discover how you relate to it. How you might use it to EXPLORE, not define yourself.

    I can say this much: These days, having transitioned so long ago, when I simply perceive the shape of my body (weight and health issues notwithstaning), I don't feel so much aroused as correct, content and happy. Anything else really matter that much in this crazy universe?

    1. This topic is so complex Caryn that we could discuss it at length and not come to an understanding however the fusion of sexuality and gender identity definitely do happen. In the case of cisgender people everything aligns but for us we are left in a kind of limbo where we aren't sure since we seem stuck between genders. Hence it takes some of us longer to decide what our orientation is.

    2. I also like your point that it could be a phase that transgender women must pass through before they mature...

    3. "This topic is so complex Caryn that we could discuss it at length and not come to an understanding"

      Perhaps, but it is clearly a lengthy discussion that must transpire. You write about it often, and I very much appreciate your voice, Joanna.

      "however the fusion of sexuality and gender identity definitely do happen."

      As I experienced it, the zeitgeist of the era in which I transitioned was one of profound shame over the issue, such that to broach it in a support group was to hush the room into an excruciatingly uncomfortable silence. Unfortunately, Blanchard's framework traumatized its way into trans culture via essays penned by Anne Lawrence, and provided, for some, one of the only starting point to a
      conversation people were unwilling to have honestly. Blanchard's knee-jerk conclusions about any perceived tendency on the part of trans women to lie about their experiences with cross-sex erotica notwithstanding, it should be acknowledged, that the prevailing psychological paradigms with which Blanchard's vied actively promoted a mythical bright line distinction between cross dressers and transsexuals. To admit to such erotica was, when in the care of certain doctors, to doom one's chances of having one's identity validated for purposes of physical transition - a fact Blanchard and his acolytes continue to exploit. Nefariously.

      Indeed, there is a fusion of sexuality and gender identity, but it has been discussed so poorly during my lifetime. To our community's severe detriment.

      "In the case of cisgender people everything aligns but for us we are left in a kind of limbo where we aren't sure since we seem stuck between genders."

      A unnecesary limbo perpetuated by that bad conversation, in my comfessedly less-than-humble opinion.

      "I also like your point that it could be a phase that transgender women must pass through before they mature..."

      Thank you. I find it quite telling that even Blachard
      concedes that some trans women he would label "autogynephilic" eventually do discover an attraction to men. Of course, his dogma leads him to dismiss the phenomenon as "pseudoandrophilia," a mere means of continuing to feed the praphilic need to "feel female."

      This too-clever-by-half rhetorical maneuver helps render his hypotheses unfalsifiable. Worse, in practice, it relegates the trans SELF to a state of permanent neoteny.

      At the very least, I believe our community and the professionals in whose care we must place ourselves, should seriously consider that cross sex arousal can be a very common, even necessary, stage of trans ontogeny.

    4. This is something I want to discuss in the book I am going to write but I don't aim to make it overly academic because that turns many people off.


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